My first exposure to the world of Naruto was in a video game store, strangely enough. I remember seeing all of these teenage boys sporting head bands with the emblem of a leaf right on their forehead. Later, I would see all kinds of Naruto products in the form or import Gamecube games, manga, and even an anime series. At first, even I was swept up by the Naruto manga and had even purchased some of the books and anime. However, after Naruto became the butt of anime jokes, due to the tragic localization of the anime, it was time to bail out.
A few years later, I was informed about the Naruto sequel, called Naruto Shippuden. I was told that this was Naruto aimed at a slightly more mature audience and that it had a higher body-count and improved action scenes. Of course, with any mainstream anime, a new series of videogame adaptations were just around the corner.
The newest addition to the Naruto product line is Naruto Shippuden: Naruto vs. Sasuke for the Nintendo DS, and this is a decent but average action game with some interesting features. Naruto vs. Sasuke is the newest addition to the Ninja Council series which got its start on the Gameboy Advanced.
The gameplay to Naruto is represented as a 2D action platformer in the vein of great side-scrolling adventures of the past. You will traverse multiple stages linked together with an over world map similar to Super Mario World. Once you enter each area you will be engaged in a double jumping, side-scrolling slice of nostalgia.
As you jump from roof-top to roof-top, you will encounter many adversaries, several of which are powerful ninjas from the anime along with legions of generic brain-dead beasts. Your basic abilities include throwing stars, teleportation (also helps with those extra long jumps), and dishing out striking combos at the press of a single button. However, as good as that sounds Naruto is not the only playable character, because he has a ton of friends to help him out as well.
During the game Naruto can have up to two other teammates that can be switched to on a dime, with a single button press or a touch on the bottom screen. Each character has his/her own set of chakra powers that are accompanied with some really nice animation effects. This added a really cool feature that went well with the bare-bones gameplay. It’s almost like a nice balance of very simplistic gameplay with some extra depth injected in for good measure. There is also a battle mode that can be played with up to four players; however I was unable to check it out due to the fact that each player must have a copy of the game.
If graphics and sound are the heart of a game then Naruto has its heart made out of Gameboy Advanced. This feels like a portable game from 2003 that just so happens to take advantage of a touch-screen. The environments are very bare and plain, but do use a nice selection of colors for mood. The soundtrack serves its purpose to solidify the world of Naruto and nothing more.
Overall, Naruto vs. Sasuke isn’t going to turn any gamer’s heads anytime soon. The average core mechanics combined with some novelty touch-screen innovation makes a game that just feels too safe and too familiar. However, if you’re a fan of the franchise or fancy a throwback to the days of property exploitation, then you can’t go wrong with this title.
Review copy provided by publisher.